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Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Dogs and cats

I’ve never had a dog in my life. I used to think that I’m more of a cat person. I’m not so sure anymore after babysitting a dog. Babysitting is an appropriate term as there are many resemblances. I’m not only referring to feeding and cleaning poo. A baby attracts lots of attention and so does a dog. Some babies and some dogs also get lots of admiration.

I like both cats and dogs but for different reasons. Cats are independent and smart and seem to pick their caretaker while making their caretaker believe that it’s the other way around. Cat owners are convinced that cats “talk” to them. Cats indeed make lots of sounds, allegedly a 100 different sounds. Cats use different sounds for different instructions to their caretakers (eg, Cornell). To some extent, cats own the house and allow humans to cohabit with them.

Dogs have a different kind of smartness as dogs build friendships with humans by gazing in our eyes. As far as scientists know, only dogs’ eyes secrete oxytocin with humans. No other animal does. The nickname of oxytocin is the bonding hormone. The dog-human friendship may suggest an imbalance and a dog’s dependence on humans. I’m convinced that this dependence is mutual because the friendship is mutual. Hence, the phrase that a dog is man’s best friend.

I’ve underestimated the socialising aspect of dogs. Walking the dog brings dog “owners” together. Over time, this may result in additional – human - friendships. There seems to be a world out there divided in dog (or cat) lovers and the rest of humanity. Not loving dogs (or cats) may easily label you as “unsuitable” in the eyes of a potential romantic interest. To some extent, I sympathise as people who don’t love animals have a kind of undefined weirdness. It’s something like: how can you love humans if you cannot even love animals?

Unlike a dog, a cat will never be your friend. A cat just tolerates you around because humans buy food and open food boxes. My mother’s cat is a walk-in cat who previously lived with her neighbour. The neighbour didn’t feed the cat properly and/or regularly. Hence, the cat switched “owner” and the neighbour is still angry with my mother for feeding a hungry cat.

I’m amazed how well a cat and dog can live together in a given house. The cat may still be impressed with the dog’s size and hide when the dog comes running. However, the cat may also be hiding behind doors and scare the dog with its (friendly) nails. Outside it’s a different ball game: any cat is a potential toy – rather than prey. It’s remarkable that cats and dogs are like frenemies: friends at home and adversaries outside. I suppose humans make the difference.

Another striking feature is the type of dog that humans pick. It’s still hard for me seeing a man walking a tiny dog. It’s more awkward than a small elderly lady with a giant Danish dog. I wonder about the saying that a dog owner resembles his/her dog (or vice versa). I’m walking with a combination of a Bernese Mountain Dog and a Belgian Shepherd Dog. It’s a powerful combination of dogs. Unfortunately, the dog easily gets blamed by other dog owners.

I’m still in doubt whether my trial will be continued. Having a dog changes your life, just like a baby does. Babies become adults when growing old. Dogs always remain like a child. Partly, that is their core strength. Partly, it puts a mortgage on your life. A dog's life doesn’t last as long as a mortgage. It’s hard losing a best friend, over and over again. I still remember the pain.

Speak Like a Child (1983) by The Style Council - artist 1, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2


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